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Faculty “Massacre” at Baylor

Today’s front page story (above the fold) in the Waco Tribune refers to the recent rash of tenure denials at Baylor as a “massacre.” For today’s story and other press on it, go to the following links:

* “Faculty ‘Massacre’” story in Waco Trib [4.3.08]
* Chronicle of Higher Education [4.2.08]
* Denyse O’Leary’s Analysis at UncommonDescent [3.31.08]
* World Magazine Confirms BP Story [3.28.08]
* Baylor Lariat Editorial [3.28.08]
* Baptist Press Interprets Tenure Denials [3.25.08]
* Waco Trib Breaks Story [3.24.08]
* Baylor Tenure Stats for 2008, 2007, and 2006 (see below)

With regard to today’s front page story, two small points deserve exposure. First, from the story:

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman … wouldn’t discuss whether a form letter is an appropriate response to a faculty candidate’s request for the reason tenure was denied. “How we communicate personnel matters is covered by privacy law,” she said. “It’s not only policy at Baylor but it’s law as well, that employees have a right to privacy and we don’t intend to violate that by discussing privacy matters.”

It is false, to claim that privacy laws cover the university’s own general policy for communicating to faculty. To the contrary, one would expect that a general policy would be quite public. It is only the specific details about the faculty person — if there are such details — that would be covered. To say that the university cannot comment on its own decision to use form letters rather than individual personal letters, because of privacy laws, is ludicrous.

Second, it is also remarkable that Baylor disclaims its own marketing department’s statements on the importance of the research performed by faculty. Where does the marketing department get its recommendations from? Do marketing department people prowl the hallways, independently judging whose research is important and whose is not? Or do they collect recommendations from the administration? Indeed, during my 5 plus years at Baylor, it was clear that the marketing people were taking their cues entirely from the administration.

It is disappointing to see Baylor essentially call its own marketing department ignorant and unreliable.

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Tenure Statistics at Baylor
These are the tenure statisics for the last three years.

2008 — 40% denied tenure.
Of 30 considered for tenure in 2008, 12 were denied.

The denied were: Lori Baker, Russ Duren, Randall Jean, Barry Kraus, Myeongwoo Lee, Rene Massengale, David Ryden, Carolyn Skurla, Amanda Sturgill, Margaret Tate, Amy Vail, Robin Wakefield.

Those given tenure were: Chris Bader, Erich Baker, Toten Beard, Kevin Chambliss, Susan Colon, David Coery, Micheal Foley, Phillip Donnelly, Brian Garner, Ian Gravagne, Brian Raines, Qin Sheng, James Stamey, Jo-Ann Tsang, Chris Van Gorder, Doug Weaver, Brett Wilkinson, Lenore Write

Many of those denied tenure were given a unanamous positive vote by the Baylor University Tenure Committee. Only three had negative votes.

2007 — 14% denied tenure.
In 2007, 19 of 22 were awarded tenure. The tenure committee voted unanimously against three candidates. Two were denied tenure. The third had his/her tenure decision postponed one year.

The following 19 were granted tenure. All but three had unanimous votes of the Baylor University Tenure Committee. Of those three, two had very strong positive votes. The third was a split vote heavily against tenure. Nevertheless, tenure was awarded.

Here are those awarded tenure in 2007: Antonios C. Augoustakis, Bryan W. Brooks, Joel S. Burnett, Jann Cosart, James W. Ellor, Tisha L. Emerson, Jan E. Evans, Mary Ann Faucher, George W. Gawrych, Eka Gogichashvili, Douglas V. Henry, Markus Hunziker, Thomas S. Kidd, Jerry M. Long, Rafer S. Lutz, Chris P. Pullig, Robin K. Rogers, Richard R. Russell, Julie A. Sweet

2006 – 11% denied tenure.
There were 28 cases in 2006, of which 25 were awarded tenure. All but one of those awarded tenure was supported unanimously by the Baylor University Tenure Committee. The exception was a three to one negative vote that was overtured and the candidate was given tenure.

Here are those awarded tenure in 2006: Francis Beckwith, Gary Brooks, Gerald V. Cleaver, Matthew C. Cordon, Jeffrey B. Fish, Perry L. Glanzer, Paul A. Hagelstein, Michele L. Henry, Joseph G. Kickasola, Kevin K. Klausmeyer, Beth Anne Lanning, Brian Marks, James Wesley Null, Mark Osler, Mark V. Pomillo, Steven C. Pounders, Jeffrey S. Powers, Keith Sanford, Todd D. Still, Elisabeth M. Umble, Anzhong Wang, Laurel Zeiss

Of the three faculty not awarded tenure, two had nearly unanimous votes against tenure by the Baylor University Tenure Committee. Another had a strong split vote for being awarded tenure, but was denied tenure by the administration.

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21 Responses to Faculty “Massacre” at Baylor

  1. Two others — electrical and computer engineering professor Russ Duren and mechanical engineering professor Carolyn Skurla — are featured in posters on the second floor of Pat Neff Hall, outside the office of Baylor Vice Provost for Research Truell Hyde. The posters read, “Baylor Research: Making a difference” and include the professors’ names and pictures.

    Russ Duren is also listed in the body of publication in Robert Marks Evolutionary Informatics Lab.

    This is a terrible loss to the advancement of science.

  2. 2

    I’m just skimming over this article, I’m on my lunch break.

    The “massacre” refers to all these academics who were denied tenure due to their affiliation with Intelligent Design??

  3. PannenbergOmega: Please read the article carefully before commenting again on this thread.

  4. Bill I was at the DI for the Devil’s Delusion release. I am greatly saddened that I didn’t get a chance to meet you as im one of your biggest fans. I really hope to one day get the chance. I promise next time I wont knock over the wine in the middle of filming!

  5. In regards to the main topic. This is a political war simple and true. Most people don’t even know that they are involved in it, for example all the people out there who think that the News is telling them the truth about the controversy. This thing is taking shape as a war.

    Let there be no doubt that ID is not responsible for the Massacres above; dogmatic atheists are.

  6. And just how are dogmatic atheists responsible for the tenure denials?

  7. It is clear that there is something bogus going on in the upper echelons at Baylor. However, I am also not seeing evidence of a cause-effect relationship between the faith or philosophical position of the candidates and their tenure rejection. In truth it almost seems like the administration has rejected candidates because they lost an internal coin-toss. This would be consistent with a view that Baylor feels that it isn’t in a financial position to be handing out this many tenures.

  8. To the contrary, one would expect that a general policy would be quite public.

    Seems likely to me. Sounds like they were covering their rear ends before thinking.

  9. 9

    Frank Beckwith, are you still around?

    The faculty and students at institutions of higher learning can, through protest, curb abuse of power by administrators. Historically, they have done just that. There’s been a radical shift to passivity in the past 20-25 years.

    When the Baylor administration deleted Bob Marks’ EvoInfo website, and would not allow him to restore it with addition of the AAUP disclaimer, I felt ethically bound to take a stand for Bob’s rights as a professor. I had been expelled from a Baptist institution for exercising my freedom of expression.

    You recently squeaked through your tenure review, amidst what many considered improprieties. I would expect you to be at the fore now in organizing protest by students and professors. Surely your concerns about promotion to full professor and quality of future working conditions should not stop you from acting on principle.

    The principle is that scholars must not give academic administrators free rein (reign). I do not mean to challenge just Frank, of course. If students and faculty cannot pull together in large numbers to oppose President Lilley, then the president’s heavy hand is just a symptom of systemic illness at Baylor.

  10. Thomas English said:

    “If students and faculty cannot pull together in large numbers to oppose President Lilley, then the president’s heavy hand is just a symptom of systemic illness at Baylor.”

    I’m wondering what makes you think that this is not being done…? I personally know of at least 20 letters from faculty/students that have been written to the administration over this very issue in the last few weeks.

  11. The Fork: When John Maynard Hutchins tried to impose Mortimer Adler on the philosophy department of the University of Chicago, the department en masse resigned. Hutchins backed down and instead put Adler in the law school. Thus the integrity of the philosophy department was restored.

    Letters, especially with email, are a dime a dozen. What sort of response have those letters generated? Form letters of the sort that the “massacred” faculty received when they were told they had been denied tenure? I’ve got my own sources at Baylor. So far student and faculty response has been unimpressive.

  12. Bill,

    You and I both wish that it were more impressive. We do need some faculty who are in a position of strength to take a public stand. I am with you there.

  13. 13

    The Fork:

    I burst my pimples at you and call your door-opening request a silly thing, you tiny-brained wipers of other people’s bottoms!

    Letters to administrators are about as effective as standing outside the Castle Aaaaarrrgh and ordering the gatekeepers to let you in.

    Administrators do not care what faculty and students make of their actions. You will get nowhere unless you understand them as bureaucrats. They work to please their superiors. And by extension they care deeply what the world at large makes of Baylor. Your messages should be to the world, not the administrators.

    Have you considered organizing an on-campus press conference, to be attended en masse by faculty and students, and making a concerted effort to draw national attention? This would be very juicy if the press conference coincided with a day-long boycott of class meetings. It would be an excellent turn for you if the administration were to force the press conference off-campus. Be sure to line up an alternative venue. A Baptist church would be ideal.

    Letters to major newspapers (start with The Dallas Morning News and The Austin Statesman) stand to get you somewhere. The administration is also concerned with its ability to hire in the future, and condemnation of Lilley’s actions in The Chronicle of Higher Education will push the right buttons. Don’t leave it all to the reporters — take charge of what gets published.

    Another tip: Don’t send a mass of letters individually. Send letters with many signatures. And note that the faculty senate might issue its own press releases. You might also form a named organization in response to the affair, and make it a point of contact for the media.

  14. 14

    P.S.–Baylor faculty should offer to form a legal defense fund for the nine who were successful until they got to Lilley. The threat that faculty would solicit contributions from alumni is something that would grab the attention of the administration and the board of regents.

  15. 15
    irreducible_complacency

    I think some multivariate statistical analyses showing the relationships of those who made tenure and those who didn’t might shed some light on the underlying causes of this debacle.

  16. What I’d like to see is some publication and citation statistics on those denied tenure and those given it. This is fairly easy to generate given a couple of hours time using something like Harzing’s free Publish and Perish software or just Google Scholar. (Putting a name into the software is fast, but when I tried to do it, I realized that a number of the people had fairly common names, and so one would have to do some minor detective work to disambiguate entries. I don’t have the time for that.)

  17. Dear arpruss (Alex Pruss? — if so, welcome): There’s also the problem of different disciplines correlating with different publication rates. Two of the engineers denied tenure by Lilley (though passed by their department and the tenure review committee) are experimentalists who, because engineering did not have a graduate program when they started, could not get their labs up and running for several years after they arrived at Baylor. Also, experimentalists in engineering tend to publish less than theoreticians. With all these complicating factors, and with no indication from the administration on what precise criteria they used to deny tenure to people who had been approved upstream, I frankly doubt that scholarly criteria were used at all to overturn departmental and tenure review committee recommendations for tenure. And correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I can see Lilley and O’Brien were themselves unexceptional scholars who rose high administratively for other reasons — so unless they were getting advice from top scholars, there’s no reason to think that they were in a position, given their own lights, to overturn tenure recommendations from faculty.

  18. I think one of the problems is all this intelligent selection going on. It’s clear that nature makes the best choices, not to mention that it is unquestionably cleverer than the faculty could be (can the faculty create an organism?).

    Those who think that mindless processes would somehow degrade the process just don’t understand that some scaffolding could possibly arise to promote efficiencies–and because you can’t prove it couldn’t, that’s reason enough.

  19. [...] has them in Mathematics, Philosophy, and theology. But I think he should get one is astrophysics… jjcassidy: I think one of the problems is all this intelligent selection going on. It’s clear that [...]

  20. Bill:

    1. Here’s a thought that has occurred to me. Suppose that being red-haired does not affect the probability that one will do tenure-worthy work. (That seems right, no?) But suppose that being red-haired increases the probability of being hired. Then if the tenure decisions are blind to hair color, we would expect red-haired faculty to be overrepresented among those denied tenure. In other words, an overrepresentation of red-haired faculty among those denied tenure can be explained in terms of a bias against them at tenure time or a bias in favor of them at hiring time (or a combination of the two, but Ockham’s razor is against that).

    There is plainly an overrepresentation of female faculty among those denied tenure. This can be explained in terms of a bias against them at tenure time or a bias in favor of them at hiring time. There are other explanations possible, but if I had to choose between these two, I would opt for supposing a bias in favor of female faculty at hiring time.

    If it should turn out–and no statistically significant evidence has been presented–that supporters of 2012 are overrepresented among those denied tenure, again one could explain that in terms of a bias against supporters of 2012 at tenure time or a bias in favor of supporters of 2012 at hiring time. (Things are a bit more complicated here, because it may be that one cannot assume independence between academic excellence and being a supporter of 2012. But I think the argument goes through even if we allow some dependence.)

    Very weak anecdotal evidence (such as the weight put on 2012 when I was being interviewed last spring) independently supports the claim that there was a bias in favor of supporters of 2012 at hiring time. This by itself would lead one to hypothesize an overrepresentation of supporters of 2012 among those rejected for tenure, unless there were an equal bias in favor of supporters of 2012 at tenure time.

    Hence, if the anecdotal evidence about hiring is right, and if it is found that supporters of 2012 are overrepresented among those denied tenure (and no data has been presented to that effect), this will show nothing about unfairness in the tenure process. But if supporters of 2012 are not overrepresented among those denied tenure, this would suggest that the tenure process was biased in favor of supporters of 2012, given the apparent bias in their favor at hiring time.

    2. It is unfortunate if labs were not set up by the unviersity. This would seem to me like it ought to have been sufficient grounds for a tenure-clock extension application, if the candidates made such. Did they make such?

  21. arpruss,

    Isn’t academia “supposed” to be color blind? I guess this is just another one of those political correctness falacies.

    Is racism (or in this case, predjudice against red hair) ingrained? Something biological?

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